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imagine it, and you cannot draw it. The concept includes every kind and size of tree, the drawing must represent one. So, to take a simpler case, you can think the general idea of a triangle, which includes equilateral, isosceles, and scalene triangles of all sizes; but you cannot draw it, because any triangle you draw must be one kind or another, one size or another. And the thingin-itself, or substance,' being, by its nature, relieved of all particular appearances, cannot be drawn, because drawing is the art of visible appearance, not of invisible substance. It is true I can pick and choose among appearances those that, for my purpose, are most important; I can abstract from the total appearance of a tree; I can abstract its greenness or brownness, and draw it black; I can abstract its roundness, and draw it flat; I can abstract its leaves, and draw it bare; I can abstract its branches, and draw it a stump; but some part of the treeness of the tree' goes with each abstraction and resides entirely in no one of these particulars. A tree may, for the imagination, present forcibly one of its qualities at a time; it may be a green dome of shade on a hot day, a ladder of retreat for a man from the attentions of a mad bull, a peg on which an apple hangs, a screen for an assassin, a choir for birds; and its own business of spreading out its million pores to the air and propagating its kind, which comes nearest to being its treeness,' may be what occupies the artist least and bores him most. He deals with the accidents of its life, that serve the purposes of his own kind. But if, because of this, he scorns the tree's own idea of its main business, misunderstands and cramps the rhythm that mysteriously arises from the strains and expansions of its anchoring, its feeding, and its breathing, he loses, not perhaps the significance for his story that the ladder or the peg or the umbrella would sufficiently furnish, he loses beauty, the beauty implicated in the processes of life, and cannot replace it however he may cudgel his invention.
Mr. Fry, as one would expect, produced a more coherent theory than the other writers: he declared, as the object of the 'Post-Impressionists,' the discovery of the visual language of the imagination': a language analogous to music, and on this quest the abandonment of 'naturalism.' The distortion' already conceded to the Romantics is a part of this, but he goes on to demand the suppression of natural perspective and chiaroscuro. Naturalistic perspective, he contends, prevents a painter from giving the significance, say, of a pageant, because the policeman near at hand obscures by his comparative bulk the really important figures. That is so only if the painter takes his stand immediately behind the policeman. There is no reason why a more distant point of view should not be chosen, and Gentile Bellini, Carpaccio, Titian, and Veronese solved this difficulty without trouble.
Chiaroscuro can also, within the limits of naturalism, be minimised and almost excluded by a lighting of the picture from the front, or reduced, for decorative breadth, to one step between light and dark, as by Manet, and for the matter of that Maurice Denis. But no reasonable man would deny to the artist, for special reasons of expression or decoration, a break with strict perspective, which, indeed, is seldom to be found in good pictures, or complete abstraction from shadow. What Mr. Fry seems to forget is that perspective and shadow are not mere science: in the hands of great artists they are instruments of expression, perspective a threatening power in the hands of a Mantegna, shadow an instrument of reverie and pathos in the hands of a Rembrandt; they also, like form, are matter for design. What we may well concede, and what I for one have often asserted, is that the full accumulation of natural effect, the total instrument of painting, is not only unfit for certain purposes, but is beyond the strength of all but very great artists. Many can play on the pipe who cannot control to purpose all the keyboards of the organ. If that is what PostImpressionism means, the greater part of recent painting in this country has been Post-Impressionist. Strang, Lavery and Brangwyn, Nicholson and Pryde, Ricketts and Shannon, John and Holmes, all deliberately or less consciously throw overboard one or another element in the full range of representation so as to keep the ship floating. There are many varieties of such sacrifice. These sacrifices may be necessary, but the danger of any deliberate stereotype thus adopted is that an artist who once limits his traffic with nature not only cuts himself off from fresh sources, but is in danger of losing even that which he hath. If out of the whole alphabet of appearances he limits himself to A B C for the sake of A, B and C are apt to grow insolent and make an end of A. Mr. Fry, if I understand him aright, welcomes the possibility of 'genius' being no longer called for. He speaks of the possibilities of recovering an anonymous' art, as if that were the same thing; but in the anonymous mediaeval times it is easy to trace the points at which genius came in. He looks for the creation of a common language of imaginative expression which all might use, without any arduous training, without any wrestle with natural appearances, a language as direct as a child's in drawing. I agree that for such purposes laborious imitation is irrelevant, that the point of imitation reached in a thousand art schools is useless, because it will never be turned to imaginative use; but I hold with Blake against Mr. Fry that a man must learn to copy nature if, to any high any high purpose, purpose, he would copy his imagination. The odd thing about this new language of the imagination is that once acquired it seems not to widen the
imaginative range, but to limit it to an orange, an apple, a napkin, and a pot. These are subjects which of all others surely call for the full texture of vision to render them interesting, for the art of a Chardin or a Manet. Nature seems to revenge herself by allowing to the rebels not even 'nature morte '!
In the matter of Cézanne Mr. Fry holds, as does his able seconder Mr. Clutton Brock, that we have 'classic' art. I have already dealt with this claim, but Mr. Fry has an obsession under this head, which calls for a word of examination. He appears to think that the residual element of reality, which renders painting 'classic,' is the expression of solidity, and that solidity is most fully expressed by the elimination of light and shade and the addition of a thick contour. We are reminded, at this point, of Mr. Berenson's famous tactile values.' The expression was ill chosen, because Mr. Berenson did not mean values of touch at all, but the sense of energy put forth and of resistance, which are quite different things; or else those appreciations of depth which (pace Berkeley) depend not on tactile but on visual machinery. The Florentine School of painting sprang from sculpture; hence its preoccupation with solidity; the Venetians made painting more distinctly a painter's art by their preoccupation with colour. This by way of parenthesis. Cézanne certainly blocks in' his forms with thick lines which give them a certain brutal force, but he does it indiscriminately with a flower-pot, which if solid is fragile, and with table-cloths, which are as little solid as objects may be. And Mr. Fry finds this magic of solidity in the most unlikely features. Cézanne sometimes draws the mouth of a circular vase or flower-pot seen in perspective not as an ellipse, but like a gutta-percha ellipse that has been squeezed till its sides are parallel; producing, Mr. Fry says, a greater effect of solidity. Why Cézanne did this it is idle to conjecture; in one piece he draws three flower-pots side by side, and their lower contours range from a straight line to a lop-sided curve. It is probable then that the flattened forms arise. rather from thoughtless or clumsy shots at form than from an intention; but if intention there was, it must have been an intention to flatten the shape, not to expand it. The true shape of a circle in wide perspective has so straining an influence on the picture-field that designers are tempted to attenuate it; thus Puvis de Chavannes, in the foreground of one of his best-known mural paintings, draws a fountainbasin in the shape of Cézanne's flower-pot mouth. He, and perhaps Cézanne, was really flattening his form for decorative Mr. Fry finds the same classic' merits in the still-lifes with which Picasso has been rewarding the devout fervour of • Burlington Magazine, January 1911.
VOL. LXXI-No. 420
disciples. One of these I was privileged to see in Mr. Fry's company. In a design' that looked like fragments of stained glass pieced together could be made out the outline of a bashed flower-pot and a lemon, and other objects were explained to be a curtain and a piece of paper. In this case the mouth of the flower-pot reversed the formula of Cézanne; it had the shape of an irregular almond, with sharp ends; but was still affirmed to increase the solidity of the pot's reality: a sufficient reductio ad absurdum, one would think. The paper' was indeed solid, solid as iron; but then one must not look for imitation of nature.' Why then have paper at all? If my classic emotion before an orange may lead me to represent it, not as a sphere of orange-colour, but as a cube of green, need I look at oranges at all? And if the balance of directions,' as I was told, requires that the flower-pot should be mutilated, why take this direction' at the expense of a flower-pot? If all we want is a play of directions' leading nowhere, why do the flowerpot and lemon linger on the field, like indestructible properties saved, in the wreck of the universe, from the old still-lifes? The truth is that these painters have never betrayed the faintest capacity for the most rudimentary exercises in pattern design. They have, on the contrary, in this direction, an appalling taste; witness the mess by Herbin, recently served up for the readers of The New Age, which looked like a number of scraps from bad wax-cloth patterns stitched together. The admirers of these things are hypnotised, exactly as a hen may be, held over a chalk-mark.
Mr. Fry was perhaps at heart not quite satisfied with his artists, of whom his eulogy was a little disappointing: in default of existing examples, he took the heroic course of producing them. With a sporting spirit I cannot sufficiently applaud, the authorities of a respectable educational institution, the Borough Polytechnic, committed to him and those about him the painting of their walls. It was really a magnificent thing for a committee to do, and if committees elsewhere will show the same adventurous spirit we shall get on with the necessary experimental stages of a fresh period in mural decoration. I am going to be critical about these paintings, but there is not a doubt that in two of the artists employed Mr. Fry singled out new talents of which a great deal may be expected, Mr. Duncan Grant and Mr. Etchells. I have seen pictures elsewhere by Mr. Grant that give this conviction more certainly than the wall-paintings, and the flowerpiece recently at the Carfax Gallery was enough to prove him a fine colourist. Mr. Etchells' panel at Southwark was the most striking in its assertion of a bald, forcible rhythm, and this assertion of abstract rhythm was almost all that the new artists provided. That, however, is the fundamental, and we may look
for a development into something richer. I mean that if a painter takes a Hampstead Heath Bank Holiday as his theme, he is making very little of it if he sets up figures that might be women anywhere reduced to the lowest common terms of humanity and action. Surely the dress, the fantastic hats, the Cockney character have something to supply that need not conflict with a deliberate structure in the design. There were absurdities of treatment besides. The ground and background were painted as if built up of tesserae; why should wall-painting imitate mosaic? Why, again, should Mr. Grant's figures look like diagrams of anatomy when their anatomy is obviously fantastic? And what suggestion of the rhythm of water do we gain from a treatment of its surface that looks like slabs of a marble floor tilted at angles to one another? Mr. Albert Rothenstein's design was more reasonable in its simplifications, less ruthless in its abstractions, and more subtle in colour; but the practice of small drawings told in a comparative failure of mass and general silhouette. Mr. Fry's own contribution had a genial idea, but calls for revision, since his little girl giving a bun to an elephant was neither standing on her legs, doing what she is supposed to do, nor attending to what she is supposed to be doing. But the total effect in a dismal room was gay, and has stirred a great deal of wholesome speculation.
A curious thing about those designs is that probably without any knowledge on the part of their painters they are much more nearly in the vein of Seurat, the Neo-Impressionist' leader, than of any of the Post-Impressionists.' Seurat, an artist of rather vulgar temperament, was a man of ideas. It was he who brought in the mosaic of dots, and it was he who produced a series of designs of dancing and other figures in severely repeated parallelism. Mr. Fry might revive him for another Grafton Exhibition.
Since then Mr. Fry has opened an exhibition of his own paintings on a less ambitious scale. As I look back on his production before it took this sudden turn, I remember a succession of phases. There was a good deal of pastiche, ingenious exercises, now in one form of the older art, now in another. But every now and then there would peep out something of his own, a 'petite sensation trying to get itself expressed, shivering a little because the borrowed clothes were cast aside, but much more interesting than the borrowings. And in the recent exhibition I find the same contrast. A great deal of it is pastiche of a new set of models. These are what I should call toy-box pictures, theoretical reductions of sketches to block forms through which, as through the reading of a picture in chunks of wood or in large wool stitches, the sketch may be vaguely seen. Others, like the flood scenes at Guildford, are a development of something more truly apprehended, and set